A New Benchmark in Fire Training

Last week we had the pleasure of welcoming six statewide agencies representing airport fire and first responder operations, military personnel, and fire departments to the Aircraft Rescue & Fire Fighting (ARFF) Training Center as the first group of trainees to use this new facility. In partnership with the Appleton International Airport (ATW), the ARFF Center will serve regional, national, and international markets.

Supported by a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the training facility sets the stage for rather intense emergency response drills thanks to a number of real-life aircraft settings and props. These include the only Boeing 777 simulated aircraft fire trainer in the United States, as well as a state-of-the-art wet/fire deck with nearly 100 individual fire zones to simulate a variety of aircraft firefighting situations, and more.

In addition to the FAA and ATW, this project required the support and collaboration of several other organizations, including the Wisconsin Technical College System and the Wisconsin Bureau of Aeronautics, as well as Oshkosh Corporation and their Oshkosh Airport Products division. All of us are delighted to provide yet another staple attraction in the region as a means to draw visitors from essentially around the world. This latest ARFF facility is in elite company—it’s one of only a handful in the United States.

Given the pandemic conditions, we look forward to celebrating with a more formal grand opening of the ARFF Center sometime soon, perhaps this fall, if possible.

A Regional Vision with Life – Changing Impact

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Stara Gleash with instructors Kory Anderson (left) and Rob Behnke

Great anticipation came with the opening of our new Wautoma Regional Center in 2018. Located adjacent to Wautoma High School, the relocated and expanded facility offers several dual credit options for high school students and other programs unique to the needs of that region, including manufacturing, business, construction, and health care.

After meeting with local officials to discuss ways to tackle unemployment in the region, the transportation sector came into play. In 2019, we brought our truck driver training to the greater Wautoma area as a way to offer opportunities for a rewarding career in just 10 weeks to more people. That investment and vision have helped several students hit the road with a new direction, including Stara Gleash—the only woman to complete the program in Wautoma thus far. This single mother was able to take her classes locally while working full-time.

Stara recently visited the College’s Appleton campus with her son, Isaac, to thank instructors and share her passion for driving around the country and getting paid for doing so. Her pathway is a reminder that listening to the distinct needs of our communities often changes a life or two along the way.

Learn more about Stara’s story HERE>>>.

 

Helping Address Worker Shortages in the Aviation Industry

The current aviation job market is at an historical high.  A recent study conducted by Boeing indicates that over the next 20 years, North America alone will need more than 200,000 new pilots and almost as many aircraft maintenance technicians.  As a local example, one of our College partners, Air Wisconsin Airlines, is looking to hire approximately 250 pilots per year for the foreseeable future.  Graduates from our Aeronautics Pilot and Airframe and Powerplant Mechanics programs offered in Oshkosh typically enjoy 100% employment rates within the aviation industry.

In recent years, we have doubled enrollment in the Airframe and Powerplant program by adding an evening option.  And two years ago our staff made several key systemic changes to our Aeronautics programs and Flight Department operations.  These changes, combined with growing industry demands, have yielded significant increases in student retention and new student enrollment, both of which have led to tripling our student pilot enrollments and quadrupling the number of graduates.

Our Board recently approved a strategic investment to support continued capacity expansion and do what we can to help address this industry need.  I’m very proud of how proactive our staff has been in identifying and addressing a challenge, and proud of our Board for supporting this investment.